If you want to catch a fish, your bait needs to be in the water. Time spent untangling knots or tinkering with gear sinks your chances of hooking a big one.
The same holds true for sales associates—the more time they spend not selling, the less likely a sale will be made. Stumbling through a confusing process or filling out prospect profiles keeps the bait out of the water. After surveying 700+ sales professionals, Forbes reports that the average sales professional only spends 35.2% of their time selling.
So what are they actually doing? Writing email campaigns, filling out prospect profiles, researching accounts, and bouncing between applications—all things that can be supported with automation.
Why Bring Automation to Your Sales Team?
Automation can support sales teams in a wide variety of ways, all of which keep sales professionals focused on their primary objective—increase revenue. Enhancing internal operations, streamlining communications, and vetting worthwhile leads are all examples of automation opportunities. Despite sales industry skepticism about investing in automation, teams that jump in now stand to reap tangible benefits.
According to McKinsey & Company, “early adopters of sales automation consistently report increases in customer-facing time, higher customer satisfaction, efficiency improvements of 10% to 15%, and sales uplift potential of up to 10%.”
Businesses that act now will have a competitive advantage, but those that wait may struggle to catch up. Soon, those that lack automated capabilities will be the minority. Deloitte’s annual global survey of executives confirms—73% of respondents said their organizations “have embarked on a path to intelligent automation.”
If that’s not convincing enough, automation can save you money just by making your teams more efficient. By 2024, Gartner predicts that businesses will experience a 30% reduction in operational costs by using automation.
3 Ways to Automate Your Sales Workflow
Businesses should no longer be asking, “should we invest in automation?” The new question is “where?” Sales teams who want to find opportunities for automation are in luck. New tools and technologies can be used throughout the entire chain of the sales processes.
With so many options, where’s the best place to start? Each business and sales team will have specific priorities and challenges. This makes it hard to suggest a generic approach to automation, but here are a few starting points that should lift up any sales team.
Create an Integrated Ecosystem
For sales teams, navigating a complex web of applications should be the least of their worries. Without an automated ecosystem of unified applications, things can get out of hand quickly.
Okta reports that even its small-business customers deploy about 73 applications on average. Salesforce and Slack recently joined forces, and for good reason—businesses are recognizing that integrations increase efficiency and promote collaboration.
Benefits of a fully integrated system include:
- Increased efficiency: Bouncing back and forth between spreadsheets, databases, and reports is not ideal. Integration puts all of your most important information in one dashboard.
- Better visibility: Integration gives sales associates a more accurate view of everything they need to know across teams—inventory, fulfillment, billing, and account management can all be analyzed holistically.
- Lower costs: Once you’ve integrated all the places you work and store information, you may find some overlap in functionality. Removing unnecessary applications saves you money and also gives time back to employees.
- Happier, more motivated employees: Having the right tools to accomplish the job means a lot to employees. With the added confidence of an efficient, integrated workflow, sales teams will be more motivated to land the big sale.
Automation offers a low/no-code solution to creating a connected sales system. Sales professionals usually spend most of their time in some kind of CRM. Integrating as many applications as possible into your CRM will keep sales tasks within one dashboard. This lets you do things like account research, lead qualification, reporting, and contract creation all in one central workspace.
Manage Communication, Processes, and Housekeeping
If sales teams are spending 35.2% of their time making sales, that means the majority of their time is likely spent on housekeeping tasks that don’t move the needle. By automating manual tasks like data entry, contract drafting, and reporting, your sales professionals will win back a large chunk of time.
Creating proposals is a common task for any sales team. It sometimes takes up to three weeks, but with an automated process, that timeline could get knocked down to a few hours. Sales teams can now plug in enterprise resource planning (ERP) data directly into a predesigned proposal template. McKinsey & Company reports tangible success for an organization that used automation to up its proposal game—a 5% bump in revenue, happier customers, and a 10% to 15% reduction in cost.
AI also tackles communication tasks. Contracts, proposals, and documents can all be sent, signed, and received through an automated delivery system. Notifications are scheduled by sales team members when a recipient opens or signs documents. Automated reminders make sure everything stays on track, and nothing gets forgotten.
Automate Lead Management and Activity
Sales associates who are able to identify the right leads have a better chance of making a sale. Spending time on the wrong lead hurts morale and the bottom line.
Automation platforms now offer predictive scoring—a method that identifies and prioritizes high-value leads to help sales teams focus their efforts. Leads are given a score using a points system that collects information from websites, social media, and internal systems. If your system is integrated, you can pull these automated lead reports right into your CRM for added flexibility.
This saves a bunch of time qualifying prospects and also fills in the gaps with information you may not have been aware of. You can also sort leads based on their historical criteria: Did they request a demo? Fill out a form? Subscribe to a newsletter? When actions like that do take place, you can automatically receive a notification giving you more time to respond.
Pipedrive, a technology provider for sales teams, claims that “automated solutions secure up to 4x more qualified leads for both SMBs and enterprises.” In the end, time is money, and time spent selling to qualified leads is sure to increase your chances of boosting revenue.
New to Automation? Start Small
There’s much debate about exactly the right kind of bait you should put on the end of your hook. Many would argue that it’s better to get your line in the water instead of fussing over the perfect lure. Sales teams looking to invest in automation might approach the situation in a similar fashion.
Automation isn’t an all-or-nothing investment. Of course, a completely integrated system that accounts for every internal chore and prospect is ideal. For some, integrating their applications into one system is the primary objective. For others, it could be as simple as automating your prospect list. Find out where your sales team is leaking energy and start there. Everyone will have a better chance of reeling in a whale.